Interview with Dr. Daniele Sisto, head of the Veterinary Service at the Local Health Unit 6 of the Western Friuli and Regional Coordinator for Small Local Productions
After the interview to Dr. Daniele Sisto, I realized how difficult it is to disentangle and juggle with numerous sources of law (continuously updated) in the field of food and edible insects.
Also appeared immediately clear how priority in veterinary are public safety and consumer health.
Dr. Sisto could make a brief summary of the current legislation regarding insect for human consumption?
To date, the regulatory framework in the field entomophagy is given by two main sources of law: the European regulations and Ministerial Legislative Decrees, the last ones are more rigid and often our food sector operators are penalized in the community market.
The Community Regulations (EC Reg. 258/97 and EC Reg. 2015/2283) standardize novel foods and novel food ingredients, vegetable or animal-derived. Products without a significant history of consumption in the EU as food before 5 May 1997 are considered novel foods and their food consumption is subject to prior authorization by the FSO to the competent authority and therefore the Ministry of Health.
The Ministry, through a circular dated 5 November 2013, has prohibited the placing of insects on the italian market because they have no significant history of consumption. In Italy nowdays is not allowed to breed and sell bugs as human food.
In other EU countries, where the single State has not expressed, however this is possible but it is not regulated.
In 2015, EFSA produced a report on the risk of producing and consuming insects and concluded that the lack of data and knowledge on this matter doesn’t permit to make a sure judgment about it.
Do you think all this precaution is necessary?
The law must be based on science.
After numerous food scandals, UE has made the White Paper on Food Safety in 2000 -from which follows the Regulation 178- laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing EFSA and procedures in matters of food safety.
You can’t do experiments using the consumer, the consumer has to be protected.
We, as ASL Veterinary Department, work together with primary and secondary OSA, farmers and private veterinarians to build compliance, to educate and support our producers, to grow the realities of our territory and eventually to evaluate them for continuous improvement in safety and quality of the product.
Unsafe food (harmful or unsuitable) and therefore not conformed to law and may not be marketed.
Unfortunately at the moment edible insects, for the fact of not being regulated, are not suitable for marketing authorization. There isn’t a registration system and control on farms rearing insects and the traceability of the finished product can’t be guaranteed, there is no guarantee on the route from farm to fork and then, at the end, the consumer might lose out.
What’s your hope for the near future?
I can’t wait enough scientific information are gathered and be able to declare insects safe; and that a clear and comprehensive legislation is spread on this regard.
Many people are interested in this new field and they see its potential, new employment opportunities and environmental sustainability. We are ready to help them and guide them to reach a great result.
We can’t now afford the consumer confidence is tainted by small, sporadic and not-constructive events based on consumption of not-officially-controlled insects; the image of this new food source may be adversely affected, and create false prejudices in people precluding a bright future.